Tuesday, 16 April 2019

It's Tough, Love, I'm Being Kind Instead!

I have recently had a friend struggling with anxiety and depression after a stressful event, and people saying a few months down the line that ‘Tough Love’ is needed and that my beliefs on helping them cope are wrong.

From my experience this is why I think 'tough love' is dangerous and unkind... 

If someone is struggling they want your understanding and support, not your judgement? They already do enough judging on themselves!

Yes of course you can ‘encourage’ them to do positive things - going for a walk, getting some sun, doing something they enjoy etc, but not by saying “Right that's it, you need to do ‘this’ now”... And frogmarch them into it implying it will solve their problems...
(It won't!)

I know many a times someone has said similar to me, and I have just felt like a part of me died inside...

I don't think I can count the amount of times I could have just driven into a tree or something after a 'pull yourself together' type comment... Only the thought of not being able to do that to the kids stopping me...

I also don't feel that one of the ‘recommended methods’ by many men I know of getting pissed and blocking it out helps ... Emotional pain is now being seen as the cause of most addictions as well as linked strongly to the stress - disease connection!

Not facing or dealing with something painful and so somehow blocking it with habits... ‘Good’ habits such as being addicted to the gym or working or ‘bad’ habits such as drug addiction, gambling and alcohol. Or holding it in the body for it to remind you with illness that you haven't dealt with something a few years later.

Take a look at Dr Gabor Mate for more information or his books ‘In the realm of hungry ghosts’ - about addiction or 'When the Body Says No' - about the mind-body link. (book details below)

As a teen, and especially after my then boyfriend unexpectedly drowned when I was 17, I was never ‘allowed’ to express my shock, anger, fear, depression, anxiety etc - my emotions scared my parents so they tried to shut me up each time I said anything by distracting me. I was even drugged (by a doctor!) on the day he died to help me block it out!

I think they were doing the best they knew in a time when ‘mental health’ still had somewhat of a stigma attached and ‘Mother's Little Helpers’ were still accepted by many!

If I am honest, much my teens and 20s were totally shit, I still had flashbacks to this time and anxiety attacks. Never 'allowed' to openly express my feelings. As much as a tried my best to hold it together and distract myself, my anxiety and fear often turned into anger...

It was only in my mid - late 30s and addressing my physical health issues by listening to my body (and the pain it held), reading numerous self-help books, looking into the mind - body connections, and talking to many people (who actually listened to me!) while finally being honest and true to myself , that I gradually realised many others also suffer (in silence as it was not talked about) from anxiety and depression and that I needed to release it...

I have said before being 'allowed' to cry with a brain tumour also released tons of past pain too - the times I was basically told to 'pull myself together'... (I wrote about being ‘allowed’ to cry with a brain tumour but not with anxiety here)

You know what helped me most...? 

Someone holding me, a friend on the phone saying she was praying for me and sending me healing & love, someone listening and saying I will be OK, a voice reminding me that I am OK now - just ride it, don't try to force change my thoughts or think that I need to stop them, allowing me to feel the emotions fully, but which also allows them to pass... 

Feeling it all.
Sobbing it all out from the core of me.

That healed.

It healed far, far more than 'that's enough' ever did ... Those words, or tough love, only put the blame on my weaknesses. Made it something that I 'should' be able to deal with if only I was brave or strong enough ... But I wasn't, so it made me feel I was failing even more ...

When people say now in passing that I should put my experience of a brain tumour behind me, it just hurts SO much... Don't they think I would if I could?

But as much as my thoughts about the experience are 1000 times better, they haven’t yet healed. I wish so many times people would happily let me discuss another fear that it brought up, still brings up... rather than implying they are bored of it or that 'my thoughts should have healed with my scar.'

Just talking about it releases it...

Every day, many, many times a day I am reminded about it, it may be a thought or a feeling. Yes primarily about the past - such as a numb head - a reminder as its not causing me pain now, but a memory of what happened.  

But also frustration and anger...   when I say something wrong, when I cannot find the correct words or I don't understand something, when my close up vision is fucked and I am not able to do something, when my brain feels exhausted, when my balance doesn't feel right or I wobble... Yes it's not just the past I can't let go of ... It's the here, the  NOW, reminding me every damn day. 

Reminding me I should be dead.

But also the fears of will I ever get fully better or will I always struggle?
Do people think I'm stupid? (I think many do, even if I don't really give a fuck...😙)
Will age worsen symptoms?
Will the tumour return? 
And if so how much physically lower will another op take me?
Could or would they even operate?
What if they can't?
Is feeling like that again - and worse - how I will die...?  

Plus all the horrendous thoughts of the anxiety and fear from being dizzy 24/7, of not being able to do anything to help myself (I couldn't even read and get information or advice as was so dizzy I couldn’t focus on a screen) the fact it never stopped and gave me a break...
That I HAD to go to sleep terrified... Just having to trust I would be ok.

I can see now that even the few months of this struggling was 'temporary', but at the time it felt it was never ending, I wanted someone to give me an 'end date' for it, so I could focus on a goal. But like depression or anxiety, it reduces, it might even go away, but you never really forget it.

Do people really think I am fully over that???

Yes of course I'm grateful the worst is over and I am alive!!! That it’s so much better than it was.

But it certainly hasn't gone... The only way I could totally forget would be to block it with drugs... Or alcohol... Internalise it until my body reminds me I have to listen again...

Anyway... It IS my past.

I'm proud of it and even if the power from it goes in the future (and I don’t cry when I talk about walking down to theatre!) it also will never be fully gone, it’s part of my history.

My scars. 

And I damn well want to help others who are in that same hole that I was find a way out... Throw them a few stones, ropes and ladders so they can hopefully climb out for themselves.

Give them what 'I' wanted...
Support them and offer them hope and trust.
Nothing will make me do any different. 


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